After a break of almost two months, the Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE Trophy season resumes this weekend at Croft with the fourth meeting of the campaign.

The double-header in North Yorkshire will see a packed field of more than 30 cars do battle in the second of three events alongside the British Touring Car Championship, with the meeting marking the halfway stage of the campaign.

Going into the weekend, Alex Solley and Tom Ovenden – two of the most experienced drivers on the grid – find themselves split by just four points at the top of the championship standings, with Solley having hit the front last time out at Thruxton.

The Graves Motorsport driver picked up two wins from three at the fastest circuit on the calendar to move into the championship lead, with five podium finishes from the first eight races being a mark of his consistency.

Solley’s advantage at the top would have been higher had it not been a dramatic incident at the end of the final Thruxton race, where contact with Ovenden on the exit of the chicane on the last lap ended with him going off into the barriers.

Deemed to be at fault for the incident – which also affected rookie Reece Lycett – Solley will take an eight-place grid penalty into the weekend, which will make qualifying more important than ever as he bids to minimise its impact.

Ovenden will hope to make the most of Solley’s penalty to reclaim the championship lead, with the EXCELR8 race chasing his first win since the opening race of the year at Brands Hatch.

Although he has scored six podium finishes so far, Ovenden lost potential points with a spin on oil at Snetterton before the Thruxton clash and will be keen to avoid any further dramas this weekend.

Behind the top two, the fight for third place couldn’t be much closer, with Jack Byrne heading team-mate Nicky Taylor on race wins once dropped scores are factored in.

Byrne scored his second win of the year at Thruxton, fighting back from a DNF in race one to win race three, whilst Taylor maintained an impressive run of form that has seen him finish inside the top six in every race bar one so far.

Taylor is a past winner at Croft, and both drivers will be chasing the top step of the podium as they seek to close the gap to the leading duo.

Impressive rookie Max Hall endured a tricky weekend at Thruxton to slip to fifth in the points but his pace was again evident with a fine drive through the field from the back to seventh in the final race.

Hall scored a double win at Snetterton earlier in the season to make him the only first-year driver to have made it to the top step so far, but there are a number of others looking to follow suit this weekend.

Rhys Hurd grabbed his first podium finish in the series last time out for Chandler Motorsport as he continues to improve in his debut campaign and now sits in seventh place overall, with James Black and Harry Hickton rounding out the top eight.

Black is the highest placed driver without an overall podium so far in 2023 but it appears to be a case of when, not if that happens, whilst Hickton will be keen to repay his Westbourne Motorsport crew for the work that has gone in to building up a new car after his accident at Thruxton last time out.

Frankie Taylor and Lee Pearce round out the top ten, although there are plenty of other names to keep an eye on this weekend – not least Ben Jenkins and Luca Marinoni Osborne after they took to the podium for the first time in the series at Thruxton.

Nathan Edwards, Reece Lycett and Ashley Gregory have shown stronger pace than their current championship positions would suggest, as has Paul Manning – another driver who has had a busy summer repairing a damaged car.

Like Hickton, Harvey Riby will be in a new car this weekend after an incident at Thruxton, whilst Jacob Heap returns to the grid for the first time since round one, albeit having switched from LDR Performance Tuning to Chandler Motorsport.